The group exhibition Mother Always Has a Mother presents the work of a collection of Danish and international artists, all of whom engage with the topic of intergenerational relationships. The works of the exhibition address family ties and questions of how to understand oneself through one’s origins. On exhibit are works by Elizabeth Bishop, Kirsten Christensen, Jens Hüls Funder, Wakeah Jhane, Rosita Kær, Florence Lazar and P. Staff, which unfold across different media including installation, collage, poetry, video and graphic print. All of the works revolve around processes of change, transformation, rites of passages and posterity’s attempts to understand the past by reaching out and reconciling.
The title Mother Always Has a Mother is borrowed from filmmaker, author and professor of gender studies Trinh T. Minh-ha, and points to the way in which knowledge, memory and narrative flow through generations – how the oldest form of archive is oral transmission.
‘In the Waiting Room’
As a little girl, the poem’s narrator is faced with the sudden and drastic realisation that she belongs to a family, and not just a family or lineage, but also to humanity in its entirety. This is expressed through a loud sigh. At first, Elizabeth Bishop zooms in on the completely sensory details of the body, where the poem’s speaker experiences the aunt and family’s tone as a part of herself, and then all the way out to ‘the round, turning world / into cold, blue-black space’; out to ‘National Geographic / and those awful hanging breasts’. It is a recognition of the self as an individual and yet also as a link in a family history and as part of something universal.
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-79, Massachusetts, USA) was a poet and author of short stories. A central theme of Bishop’s is the arrogance of mankind, its eternal quest to categorise nature and the rest of the world.
Makulering, [Shredding], 2023
Kirsten Christensen has produced a new work for the exhibition — an installation where she revisits and reworks her earlier work Idyll from 1978, which was based on a photo of Christensen herself as an infant on her mother’s arm. This work has followed her throughout her practice and today she feels the need to confront and do away with it. For apparently, idyll is not the whole story.
Kirsten Christensen (1943, Copenhagen) is a visual artist and ceramicist. In her work, she often takes her own life story and situation as a starting point for her socially indignant, rebellious and constantly reflective work.
Jens Hüls Funder
School ship, 2014–21
Shelving unit, model ship in wood, LEGO blocks, dust
In the work School ship, Jens Hüls Funder has finished building the model ship his father began but never completed. Hüls Funder has continued his father’s work using the toy of his own generation, LEGO.
Jens Hüls Funder (1985) lives and works in Copenhagen. He works with a variety of media and approaches to materials, juxtaposing familiar objects with surprising materials to challenge recognisability. In several works, LEGO blocks have been combined with organic materials such as bird nests and bird boxes.
Grandmother’s Prayers, 2021
Print after gouache, water colour, acrylics, pencil and ink on antiquarian bookkeeping sheets
In her graphic print Grandmother’s Prayers, Wakeah Jhane expresses the care she experienced within her family. In this text about the work, Jhane describes her bond with her grandmother:
“Long before she ever knew she would become a mother and a grandmother – she prayed hard for the future generations to come. She planted a seed in each of us. Praying that we would never suffer the harsh realities that this world carries, as she did. Praying for our strength and resiliency to overcome it all if we did. Praying for the wombs and the babies. Her prayers are the very roots of us. It flows through the blood in our bodies so gently and intently like water. Creating new and better paths. She prays that her prayers radiate and reach as far as those who come in contact with her relations. Our matriarchs are celebrated every day by us simply being and carrying on their legacies.”
Wakeah Jhane (1995) belongs to the Comanche and Kiowa tribes in America. Jhane expresses herself through indigenous traditions of art and crafts, particularly ‘ledger art’, narrative drawings and paintings on paper and textile.
Almost No Memory, 2023-23
Fibreboard, threads from an unravelled rag rug, a knife with a sheath in playdough, as well as a print on paper with text by author Helene Johanne Christensen
On the maternal side of Rosita Kær’s family, textiles have been handed down from one generation to the next. This process began with her great-great-grandmother’s undergarments, which Kær’s maternal grandmother, Karen-Hanne Stæremose Nielsen, wove into a rag rug. This, Kær has now unravelled and reworked into a new work of textile art.
The work is part of Kær’s exploration of how materials store memory, as well as how the impulse to care for something always carries with it the risk of destroying it. But the fragments also make it possible to imagine new patterns and connections, to retell and reinvent histories. As part of the work, Rosita Kær has invited author Helene Johanne Christensen to contribute a text, which is entitled KH nr. 1555, after the registration number of the rug. The work also includes a knife whose handle Stærmose Nielsen made as a six-year-old and which was also part of her textile collection.
Rosita Kær (1992) works and lives in Copenhagen and London. Her work oscillates between sculpture, text, archival research and textile. In a series of projects, Rosita Kær worked with her grandmother, weaver and textile researcher Karen-Hanne Stærmose Nielsen (1933-2023), and her collection of textiles.
Confessions d’un jeune militant, 2008
Video, 32:00 min
In her video work, Florence Lazar depicts lost (and perhaps obsolete) knowledge transmitted across generations by letting her father explain the content of his collection of Marxist literature to his grandchild and daughter behind the camera. Lazar’s father comments on the socialist books that shaped him intellectually and politically as a young man in the 1950s. His grandson hands him the books, dutifully, but with the indifference of a teenager, pointing to a generational gap and, more generally, to a contemporary lack of history.
Florence Lazar (1966, Paris) is a photographer, video artist and film director. Through the 1990s, Lazar worked primarily with photographic portrait art. In the late 90s, she began incorporating video into her practice to depict Yugoslavia’s disintegration and civil war. In her later works, she deals with the French post-colonial period.
The Foundation, 2015
Video, 28:26 min.
In the video work The Foundation (2015), P. Staff discovers new genealogies that are not rooted in blood ties, but rather tied to sexual, artistic and queer origins. The video is a portrait of the Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles and its many layers of subculture, relationships, and erotic and artistic performances. The Tom of Finland Foundation began as a foundation to manage the estate of visual artist Tom of Finland (1920-1991), known for his homoerotic drawings. The foundation has since expanded its purpose to include the protection and security of erotic art.
P. Staff (1987, UK) is a visual, film and performance artist with an interdisciplinary and often collaborative practice. Staff focuses on themes such as discipline, deviance and queer bodies in a continuing examination of historical narratives of counterculture, radical activism and alternative forms of community building.